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Regional Policy

1. Focus on growth and jobs

Regional policy has been at the heart of EU policies since the Treaty of Rome, 1957. The six original member states refer in the Treaty’s preamble to the need “to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing among the various regions and the backwardness of the less-favoured regions”.

In the past 50 years, European cooperation has built motorways, waste water treatment plants, bridges and biolabs and revived neglected city areas and businesses, among an endless list of projects, in the poorer regions of the Union. Solidarity and cohesion are the key values behind these projects and the European Union’s regional policy.

Today, Regional policy is just part of Cohesion policy which also focuses on cultural, societal and environmental issues.

Since 1988, the European Union has invested 480 billion euros in less developed regions. The Cohesion Policy 2007-2013 amounts to almost 350 billion euros, or 36% of the total EU budget, and is used predominately to carry out objectives of the Lisbon Strategy on growth and employment. About 80% will go towards the convergence of the new member states while 16% of Structural Funds will be used for innovation, sustainability and training projects under Regional Competitiveness and Employment. Just over 2% is allocated for transnational and regional cooperation under European Territorial Cooperation. The investment aims to stimulate growth in the Union's poorer regions and generate 2.5 million new jobs.

The Cohesion Policy 2007-2013 is different from the 2000-2006 Policy in several ways:

  • greater emphasis on economic growth and employment and the decentralisation of responsibility
  • simplification of objectives and regulations; streamlined eligibility rules; single-funding source and flexible financial management
  • EU, national and local level initiatives be driven by a single document called the Community Strategic Guidelines

Before 2004, the main beneficiaries of Cohesion Policy were the western European nations of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Eastern Germany, Italy and Spain. Following the 2004 accession of ten eastern European countries, however, most funding shifted to the east, as illustrated by the Cohesion Policy 2007-2013: Factsheets.

Other policies (CAP, Transport, Telecom and Energy networks, R&D, Environment policy, Information society, Competition) also contribute to the EU’s regional policy.

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